Category Archives: Just Watching

Just Watching – November 2019

From the Archives of Just Watching By Charlie:

SAME OLD SAME OLD     

For most of my professional career attending conferences of all sorts was a rich source for not only new information, ideas and insights but for great stories.  There was always someone who had a new one to tell either in the sessions or after them.  So, it came as somewhat of a shock some years ago to realize upon returning home after a conference that while I was heavy with new data from excellent presenters I had picked up no new stories. While plenty were told  I had heard them all before.  None new.  Nada.

I have since had a similar experience in another part of my world.   I read a lot.  I wander (and wonder) through a lot  of websites and I am flooded with postings.  It’s increasingly the case that little that shows up is new.  A refurbished insight into something that is actually quite old; a barnacled bit of wisdom — repackaged; an alliterated “new” version of one of Les Stroh’s timeless truths.  Yes.  All of that.  But nothing of that is really new.  Hm-m-m-m. 

Then it dawned on me: long time attentive and conscientious readers, listener and watchers has pretty much “seen/heard it all”.  Possible?  Yes.  Even  probable.  

Years and years ago while taking a summer course in writing at Wichita U the prof told us that there are only eight basic story lines in literature with each having four variations.  And — surprise! —  all of them are in the Bible.  Maybe  the number is six rather than eight but the point is the same.  There’s not much that is actually new.  Shakespeare was right “A rose by any other name….”

The truth is we don’t really need a lot of new.  What we need is to dust off and do all kinds of good old things that ought be retried or, maybe even tried for a first time.  We can all use something like  baseball’s Spring training which comes around every February.  What do they do there?  Major league managers drill their teams on hit-run-field-throw basics. Why?  The team that does them best throughout the year will probably be in the World Series  — and likely win. 

It’s no different with pastors, teachers, leaders and parents.  We don’t need a lot of new.  We need to learn and keep relearning the old basics.  And when it comes to basics there’s nothing that fits that bill better than reviewing how task and relationship dove tail when we put what we have reviewed into practice.

LESSON LEARNED      

To show some of what I mean, at one time I was interviewed the then Family Life Ministry of the LCMS — or whatever it was called.  It took place in a room with five or six 3×8 tables along the walls on which all the publications and tracts that had been written and published by that ministry in the recent past were displayed.  The question I was asked? “Where would your priorities for the future of the family life ministry lie?”  

I said, “I’d go out into congregations and do whatever I could to organize family life committees but would print no more tracts and pamphlets until the ones we have in such abundance were in the hands of those who would use them.”

There was a long silence.  Then the chairman of the group cleared his throat and said, “I don’t think you understand what this group needs to do.”  He was right.  I was dumb.  I should have known the true nature of the position given that the meeting was held in the publishing house which also happened to print all those tracts and publications.  Writing and printing was the name of the game — not using.

Bottom line?  I wasn’t selected.  No surprise.  There is no family life ministry, as such, in that church body today.  No surprise.  All of which leads me to the importance of  understanding task and relationships.  I didn’t understand their idea of task.  They shared with me no sense of how I saw relationships.

TASK AND RELATIONSHIPS     

Anytime a family or church council or parish or classroom tries to be what they say they are (an active church, an effective family, an efficient team, a learning environment) they deal with task and relationship.  Both.  Simultaneously.

Implicit in church/class/council/family is the recognition that in order for any of them be functional there must be a group.  The simplest and also oldest definition of a real group is:

“Two or more people with a common purpose.”

The key components of that definition are two or more people and common purpose.  Omit either and what’s left is a dysfunctional group.  Or congregation.  Or church council. Or classroom. Or family.  There sure are a lot of all those!

Task is what a group is trying to do.  Relationship is how they connect while doing it.  If the group is overly intent on task they are like galley slaves or on a chain gang.   If they are primarily into relationships they are having a cocktail party or family picnic.

The pastor, the father/mother, the teacher, the church leader must always be about building the group plus keeping it on a life target.  

One clue to how well the group is doing are the pronouns the leader and the led use.  Too much I/me/mine and there is no group.  Group words are we/our/us.  Listen for them.  Look for them in the group’s actions.

Don’t wait for a group disaster to happen, or your Titanic to sink.  Be concerned about tasks and relationships now.  Do most of the group share a common purpose, which usually means have they had a hand in shaping it?  Listen for it and the our/we/us that tells you it exists.  Is the common purpose something about which you can be and are properly proud? 

If you lack good answers to those two questions, park your bus.  Driving on will guarantee either a humongous accident or the  discovery of what Dead End means.  Neither is a blessing or necessary.  Congregation.  School.  Council/committee.  Family.  All need someone to be take care of the group task and relationships.  You?  If not you, who?  

NEW NORMAL    

I report from time to time about where I am on life’s road.  I’m moving right along and so are you.  It’s just that we aren’t at the same spot.  I am not moving toward most of you.  I’ve been there and done that.  But almost all of you are coming my way.  From where I now sit I’d like to offer advance notice of something that is inevitable in life: identifying and accepting what are known as new normals.  I was helped in understanding that term by Mike Walker.

Mike Walker as a young man was diabetic and in time lost sight in one eye.  A little later he began losing sight in his other eye. Many surgical procedures later he was faced with a very “iffy” operation that might improve his vision somewhat, but it could also lead to total blindness.  His physician asked whether he could accept his present marginal visual condition as his “new normal”, or did he want to risk further surgery.    Pray for and with him. 

Mike is not the only one faced with a “new normal”.  They are often attached to choice.  When a person  marries they enter a new normal phase of life.  Another forms when a child is born and a family begins.  It’s the time of a new normal.  As the years pass we all face a succession of social and physical new normals including a discover that “new normals” aren’t new.  They are  just normal.  The widow or widower as well all retirees or people whose economic circumstance changes all have to decide whether they can face their new normal.  

One of the group goals of  congregations/schools/councils/families while working through task/relationship matters must be learning how to recognize the “new normals” as they come while accepting them for what they are.  The Bible can help you do that.

While the primary purpose of Scripture is outlining God’s plan for our salvation it also shows how God blessed His people along their way as they worked at both task and relationships in the face of almost the new normals.  It’s important you know that.  As you deal with the new normals that are such a part of life you’ve got plenty of help from Him and through Him. 

More on all that in issues to come.  There’s so much He would have us know.

Blessings,

Charlie

Just Watching – October 2019

It has been a year now since Audie and I made “the move”.   On the edge of 90 years of age we joined Abraham, Sara and Lot in putting our Ur of the Chaldees (101 Villa Way in Bloomingdale) in our rear view mirror and headed for our new “Ur” known as  Windsor Park Manor (130 Windsor Park Drive C304, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188).   Our e-mail and cell phone addresses remain the same but the telephone land line number has changed to 630-933-9395. 

As I write down all those numbers needed to find us, I found a post card that was addressed to my grandfather, William Steinkamp, in the1890s.  It was addressed: Teacher Steinkamp, Topeka, Kansas.  That’s all – and he got it.  But skip or invert any digit in my numerical descriptives and my mail is likely to end up in the dead letter box of Pocatello, Idaho.

In my current circumstance I am reminded of George Burn’s line about reaching 95 years of age.  He said, “If I’d known I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself.”  My spin on that is that if I’d known how tough it would be to move our residence at 90 years of age, I would have taken that step at 80, or even earlier.  So also say many who at our age are experiencing their own challenging pilgrim’s progress.

During all this transitioning, I turned to three things Dr. Roger Weise, a highly regarded Chicago area geriatrician (and LCMS pastor’s son) said about ageing.  Each stands on its own two feet.  Together they help shape my understanding of what’s going on in this nonagenarian world.

  1. Age is change over time.
  2. As we age it takes us longer to adapt to change.
  3. The older we are the more unique we become.

Fussing with the implications of #1 I keep forgetting that change is a constant.  A constant.  A 21st century constant!  Which means that every dawn brings a brand-new day, unlike any from my past.

New days are like Moses’ manna.  As time passes, all my “yesterdays” get stale and lose their freshness.  That thought is nothing new. Centuries ago Greeks said, “panta rhei”, their Roman neighbors, “tempus fugit”, English pots of the past, “time flies” and more recently a Beatle’s Golden Oldie, “The Times They are A’changin”.  They are all the same song derived from who knows where.  

In a more expansive way, ancient Romans anticipated Dr. Weise’s insight more than 2,000 years ago with, “Tempore mutantur et nos mutamur in illes” (The times are changing, and we are changing in them).

I don’t want to swamp you with foreign languages, but it is important to remember we are not the first people to face what happens when time and my age converge.  One word: change, even unpredictable change.

I also like Wiese’s #2 and #3.  Change doesn’t become easier as time passes and I age, nor do I become something better, not only as compared to others but as compared to what I was in the past.  Like my age peers all around me I have trouble remembering names; familiar words escape me; specific memories fade.  I need and receive constant and unsolicited assistance from so many people to keep me abreast of what’s going on!

All he says that applies to me applies to my declining pool of peers even as age related denial is rampant – and often laughable.  Many don’t see that rumbling steam engine of change high-ballin’ down our life’s main line, bell ringing and whistle blowing even as Johnny Cash sings, “Do you hear that train a-commin’?”  Well, do I – we – they?  Its name is Change!

As I’ve aged, I have noticed that today’s younger folks-families-congregations accept, adapt to and then adopt with ease lots of change with which I struggle.  Many have not adopted Alexander Pope’s 1711 advice (which shows how long this thing about change has been around),

“Be not the first by whom the new are tried,

Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.”

In that quote I didn’t pick up on his “are tried” in the past.   Pope’s “the new” that “are tried” is a plural.  There’s a lot of new going around.  Some of it turns out pretty good.  Others not so much.  (I was relieved when Michael finally rowed his boat ashore – or did he?)  In any case let it be known that change has historically been a constant.  It still is.  

While all this has been going on older people like Audie and me have plowed ahead.  We have downsized our home three times and, in the process, reluctantly dumped “tons” of what we no longer use, and our kids don’t want, much of which was so important in the past.

Weise’s Observation #3 makes sense: “…with the passing years, each of us become more unique, unencumbered with much of yesterday’s absolutes”, aka “yesterday’s irrelevancies”.

The truth seems to be that one way or another as change takes place in people/families/churches, what we are and take on are more unique as the years pass.  It’s fascinating how older churches take on a patina of uniqueness while denying change.  One nameless “old lady” refused for years to translate its original German language Constitution into English even though only a few spoke their mother tongue.  When tough issues arose they would tussle with it long enough to develop a kind of group consensus and then ask the pastor, whom they all trusted and whom they believed read German, what their hallowed document had to say on the subject.  Once he sensed what the group was ready – or not ready – to do, he announced that he believed their group opinion was supported by their Constitution!  He was their 20th century Oracle of Delphi. 

That church also had Easter Sunrise Services in a downtown park – at 9:30am, yet – for two reasons: 1) with the passing years fewer and fewer of their members each were willing to drive to their inner city location before dawn, and,  2) the neighbors whom they were trying to attract didn’t get up early.  So they did the Joshua-thing: they announced that their Easter Sunrise Service would be held at 9:30 AM.  Only an older congregation, unique in many ways, could pull that off.

To Dr. Weise’s three bullets I would offer as a footnote that those of us who are older-older are like the Timex watches in the past that could take a licking and keep on ticking.  Nothing makes that point clearer for me as an older pastor than liturgical vestments.  Robes have radically and constantly changed since I bought my first black de rigueur Geneva gown in 1949!  Who wears one today? ‘Time and tide wait for no man.”  True, but it is also true that, “Time and change don’t dawdle either.”

So here I am, face to face with Dr. Weise’s simple formula that touches me, my family and my church: “Age is change over time” – and as I age the times are certainly a-changin’.  Ain’t that the truth!

Blessings,

Charlie Just-Waking-Up van Winkel

Just Watching – September 2019

I wasn’t sure what to feature in this month’s Just Watching so I decided to review what I had written in the September issues of the last two years.  Guess what.  As far as my life is concerned it was the same-old-same-old topic: change. 

Change has been a constant in my life.  The Latin saying, “Tempore mutantur et nos mutamur in illes” has held true for me since my Day One.  (Of course, all you Latin students know that phrase means, “The times are changing and we are changing in them”.  Right?)  

What is and has been true for me has also been true for others.  A year ago I wrote: “It looks to me that Henry Lyte’s 1847 hymn, “Abide With Me”, had it right: “…change and decay in all around I see…”.  Change for sure.  Decay?  Maybe, or so it seems when I see myself in the shaving mirror.  Who is that old man looking back at me?  Change?  Maybe decay?” 

Lest you think I am about to launch into a rant about ageing let me assure you that even as I wrote that last paragraph the rest of Lyte’s verse was on my mind: “… Oh Thou who changest not abide with me”. 

Henry completed this hymn three weeks before he died of progressive and diagnosed tuberculosis.  That last line makes this hymn a great profession of faith.  The way he peppered his end-of-life composition that explores change with the pronouns “I” and “me” has made it a Christian faith favorite for nearing 300 years. Throughout my 90+ years change has been a challenging and continuous constant. 

Changes have forced me to daily adjust my life.  Things as every-day (now) as the telephone, zip codes, television, automatic transmission and computers have kept my change world spinning.  (Explain to your grandchild why the noise they hear when their cell phone is activated is called a dial tone.)

Add to those representative change areas the radical social and religion changes with their new norms that we face day in and day out, the augmented educational expectations that elementary school children today face (intellectual challenges I didn’t meet until college), the shifting moral and sexual standards of today, even what was thought to be time-honored family values.  A popular saying of a few years ago put it right, “This ain’t your grandpa’s world!”  It sure ain’t.  Lots of change going on together with lots of decay by my standards.     

As a Lutheran Christian church worker, I have found it helpful to re-read and reflect on Concordia Seminary’s Dr. Paul Raabe’s article of a few years ago.  It was about the new world that LCMS congregations and her individual members cope with today.  In the article he listed a few of the more sweeping (and usually overlooked) life situations Lutherans face today.  He calls them, “Elephants in the Room”.  Let me share a few and then leave it to you to determine how each plays out in your personal/congregational/denominational world. 

Elephant 1.  A huge mismatch exists in what our church body faces in that when founded most congregations and schools of the LCMS were in the middle of the USA (half of all Lutherans still live within 500 miles of Chicago)  and in rural areas while most of the US population has shifted to the coasts and in major metropolitan areas. 

Elephant 2.  The LCMS (locally and nationally) needs to reach the multi-ethnic population of the U.S., (Hispanics, Africans, and Asians, for example) and find new ways for attracting them to the LCMS’s predominately Caucasian congregations – and how to invite and accept them into our homes and families as well.

Elephant 3.  What can we do about the rising tide of non-church-attendance at both the local and national level?  Surveys show that on any given Sunday only 18% of the U.S. attend a church service…over 80% do not.  What’s the story in your congregation – and why?

Elephant 4.  How can we work in the USA’s multi-religious environment not only with non-Christian religions but also with many different versions of Christianity?  Many have been turned off by their preconceived distortions of the Christian faith and life – at least of the Christian faith and life in which I was reared.

Elephant 5.  The biblical illiteracy among church-going Christians is awesome.  Many Christians cannot speak or think in larger biblical categories; they only know a few biblical sound bites.  Along with that many Lutherans are unfamiliar with the basic documents of our denomination like the Small Catechism.

Elephant 6.  The church no longer represents how life at its best is lived today.  What writes the script for the best view of life today are the entertainment industry, social media, corporate America, radical individualism and current popular and/or political ideologies.  As a result, the life of many Christians differs very little from that of non-Christians.

Dr. Raabe wrapped the challenges implicit in his Six Elephants article with:

“Every generation is called to be faithful in its own time and place, to confess the truth of the gospel (Galatians 2:5), to teach the written Word of God in its truth and purity (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:15-17), to walk in the ways of the Lord (Isaiah 2), to proclaim repentance unto the forgiveness of sins to all nations (Luke 24:44-49).  With such huge, overwhelming, elephant-like challenges facing us, we are tempted to lift our hands and cry out in utter despair.  But it is still 2019 anno domini – the year of the Lord.  Jesus the Messiah, crucified and risen for all, is that Lord.  Therefore, our labor in his name is not in vain.”

So…

How are you dealing with the Six Elephants internally and in your family, church and community?  Denying that the Elephants do not exist in your world is whistling in the dark.

I once saw a book plate featuring a sailing ship hull down heading toward for the horizon and the words, “More to Come”.  That’s a very Biblical take on life both existentially (our day-in-day-out stuff) and eternally (Henry Lyte’s abide-with-me views).  We are all copies of that ship with sails full and billowing, driving through the waters toward a horizon beyond which we cannot see and beyond which (as some see the future) we will topple into oblivion.  Or, as people of God past and present believe they are heading with Henry and millions of God’s people past and present toward and into what is a welcoming home port. 

As for me and my house we believe there’s more to come – and more to do – until as we are safely harbored with Him.

Meanwhile, as Audie and I move on into another of life’s chronological levels an do so in a brand-new residential arena we do so with confidence believing that:

 “… yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery while today is His gift – which is why we call it the present.”

Whoever originally authored that phrase is not important.  Knowing that it is true, is.

Audie and I have found ourselves weathering the most challenging August of our lives.  We are bruised but not broken.  September already filled with the promise of more change creep closer and closer.   Oh, Thou who changes not, abide with us – and with you.

Vaya con Dios,

Charlie

Just Watching – August 2019

Charles Darwin once wrote, “It is not the strongest of a species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

I am by no means a Darwinian evolutionist (sounds ominous) but that statement makes sense to me.  From my current Robinson Crusoe (remember him?) take on life, I am convinced that change is a constant.  The “three C-s” I was told were coming my way as I age — Cataracts, Cancer and Change — have all arrived as foretold.  Now either I handle each of them or they will handle me. 

As with Robinson Crusoe, Super-Seniors are living in a world like none they had previously known and, worse yet, it is constantly changing and in such unpredictable ways.  It reminds me of the best car I ever owned, a 1970 Volvo.  I grieved when I finally had to let it go not because the engine, the ignition system or the transmission failed.  They were sturdy to the end.  I had to get rid of it because as the car aged, I couldn’t keep up with the down time and the cost of replacing quarter-sized seals, tiny electric connectors and endless crucial small rubber parts that didn’t cost much themselves but were crucial to continued driving.  

Much the same thing happens to our bodies as we age.  Cartilage we ignored through our earlier life as it protected our joints wears paper thin and dissolves.  Further, all our five basic senses weaken as we age calling us to buy hearing aids, better eyeglasses and one or more safety devices for seniors.    

Now my latest.  Have you ever heard of “Sensory Neuropathic Cough”?  After years of preaching full voiced a dozen or more times a week I would suddenly start coughing in uncontrollable spasms.  I thought it was bronchitis or a growth.  Wrong.  After the doctor fed a small video camera into my nostril and down my throat (yes, that can be done) I watched SNC as it did its thing.   One suggested treatment involved an $800 a month prescription that has helped some who deal with SNC – and thousands of Super-Seniors do.  My own “50 cent solution” is to stop teaching.   So, at 90 years of age I am no longer able to serve the half dozen classes a week I have been serving for the last ten years.  That is an example of change at work on a massive scale for me, for the five classes and for the parish that now must find replacements.

I’m not telling you all this to vent a personal problem or seek sympathy.  I share this experience in response to Charles Darwin’s observation that the survivors in life do so by making changes, some large, some small.  I am a survivor as are five great classes that have already made adjustment and Trinity parish itself.  All will change, survive and thrive.

For years when I’ve shared upside-down life stories in Just Watching I’ve been encouraged to do so by “me-too-messages” responses I’ve had from readers.  I don’t cough as I report my experiences, so I write instead of speak even though I also produce a lot of two-finger typos.  My experiences may all be new to me, but they are obviously not unique.  To varying degree the nearly 500,000 Super-Seniors in the USA deal with one or more of the same physical-mental-emotional “worn out parts” that affect the post 85 years.  Previously inexperienced loneliness crops up without warning.  New kinds of ailments, major or minor, claim you as a latest victim.  Uncertainty about the future is a constant as are a myriad of other changes that pop up unannounced as we grow older. 

Some dismiss any or all of that as just more end-of-life-issues.  OK.  Maybe.  If they say so.  But I come at them as end-of-life-realities which call me and my peers to pay attention to what’s happening and focus on life to its fullest as we head for home. 

As I do so four items, guided by the Spirit and Scripture based, come to my mind.  They want my attention.  Yours, too.

Item One:   There’s more in Scripture about living life effectively as a Senior and Super-Senior than any other age segment in life.  Did you realize that? It strikes me that God knows that I – you, too – need all the help we can to make the most of our numbered days.  There’s a reason God called to full time service OT people like Abraham, Moses, Miriam and Sarah and many others when they were well into their 80s.  He’s not done with us just because we are long in the tooth.

Item Two:   Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 very specifically lays out what had been going on in the life of Seniors and Super-Seniors in the distant past.   Solomon’s view of it looks depressing and all downhill.  About all people could do as life deteriorated over time was bear up under deteriorating change and turn to for help to whatever balms, potions and remedies they found through experience or in nature.  Before the 18th century there was not much that could be done with worn out human parts or their perceived inevitability.  But with the 19th century things changed dramatically as Gerontology in all its glory exploded on the scene introducing wondrous medical discovery after medical discovery.  Together they set the stage for health, healing and hope in our new and different world.

Item Three:   There’s no reason today for dreary talk about being “over the hill”.   God’s children today are to attack life at every stage as they say and to love in every way they can imagine for as long as they are able.  I am inspired by what the many Seniors and Super-Seniors are saying and doing who love it here at Windsor Park and at my home parish to say nothing about doing so in their families and various communities.

Item Four:   I have a special concern akin to that of Solomon.   He wrote Ecclesiastes with all its remarkable insights and advice to coming generations about making the most of their moment but his opening sentence of chapter 12 is an unabashed appeal to those who are young and just starting out in life: “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.”  That’s his way of saying, “With the Lord begin thy task…”, the hymn those of us who at 12 years of age were preparing for service to the Lord in the church.  The question I till struggle with as a Super-Senior is, “What can I do to help those who are young see, accept and delight in how their Father in heaven cares for them?”

Truth to tell that’s the same question I ask each day about how to best help my Super-Senior peers care for themselves and others who they love. 

For myself, I start each morning by walking through Psalm 103.  What a way to start the day or end it, too! 

Blessings, Charlie

Just Watching – July 2019

Here comes another of my “perennial” reports that is written, first, for other post-85 perennials – then to pre-perennials of any age who must deal with us, or who may to their surprise become one of us.  It happened to me – I never expected to be 90 years old.  It will happen to others. You.  Maybe? 

This month’s report is wrapped around two real life adventures Audie and I had involving unexpected trips to the hospital – an EMT experience (me last year) or an Urgent Care experience (Audie, this year) each ending up at Alexian Brothers Hospital. 

Last year’s EMT run began for me at home.  I don’t know how I landed on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night.  I had a 104 temp, later attributed to an internal infection.  When the two EMT guys arrived and picked me up they started by asking three questions: 1) What’s my name?  2) What year is this?  and 3) Who is president?  I got my name right but my other two answers of, “1985” and “Reagan” earned me a mid-night ride to Alexian Brothers Hospital followed by a four day stay.  So much for creative repartee.

This year’s hospital adventure is an Audrey story.  It started with her experiencing a wildly pounding and erratic heartbeat that demanded a 6 AM run to the nearest Urgent Care Facility.  (In other places that is sometime called an Emergency Room.)  Even though we had moved recently I fortunately knew where our nearest was.  By whatever name do you know where yours is?  Just in case?

The Urgent Care in-take doctor immediately examined her, gave her the first of many tests, electronically consulted with a distant specialist who is on call somewhere 24/7.  After some long distant conversation between the two doctors I was abruptly asked whether I was ready to drive her to the hospital immediately or should they order an ambulance.  That’s when we realized this was serious.  I drove. 

By the time Audie and I got to the ER of the hospital she had been already been electronically pre-admitted, the results of all her Urgent Care tests had been forwarded, the hospital’s medical intake team was ready and waiting, a hospital room had been assigned to her as soon as she had been properly prepped.  Wow! 

The rest of her story about her erratic heartbeat and the subsequent treatment may come later.  It was remarkable.   But the Lessons for The Day, first for me and then for my shrinking pool of perennial peers needs more immediate attention.

Start with this: Audie and I are not a couple of chronic hypochondriacs.  We are just two 90-year-old Super-Senior perennials who are finding out to their surprise that some body parts are worn down while others have essentially worn out.  Hence our recurring medical experiences.  They are nothing new.  We have noted time and again that Super-Senior are living longer and are living longer longer. 

Surprising as has been our rising awareness of the medical problems that attend our l-o-o-o-ngevity condition is discovering the amazing changes that have quietly taken place in the medical field as we have been getting older.  The result of all this is that we face life and death choices that even our most recent ancestors did not have.  Is that good?  Bad?

For instance, a wide range of for medical specialists have developed who have committed a big chunk of their life preparing to answer our special Super-Senior needs.  GPs properly refer us to them at the drop of a hat. Whether in the hospital or in their offices these specialists do their highly skilled thing and then quietly move out of our world like ships passing in the night.  God bless them.  Three or four of them played a part in meeting Audie’s recent need.  Without them she was facing a stroke or heart attack, common Super-Senior experiences in much of the recent past.  But practicing their skills effectively presents a question for those who are older: “Now that due to their expertise many of us are living longer what are we to do with our added years?” 

If you don’t think that vast changes have taken place in the practice of medicine during our lifetime let Audie give you her insight.  While sitting in her room I chanced to survey the multitude of dials and hoses and cords affixed to the walls around her bed and also at the rolling electronic cart the nurse towed along and on which she recorded all kinds of results as she made her rounds.  Audie started her professional life as a graduate nurse.  I asked her, “When you started working what of all you can see was then in a hospital room?”  She answered, “The bed (and a much different and more basic one at that) and the pole on wheels from which we occasionally hung a drip bag.”  That’s it.  “Toto, we aren’t in Kansas anymore!”  So what does all this medical change/challenge/opportunity mean for Super-Seniors in 2019?  That’s a great question!

That’s enough about the current medical adventures of Audie and Charlie for now.  I report on them to my peers as some of the things that Super-Senior survivors like us (and you?) experience and as more evidence of the changes with which God surrounds by His will and determination as we strive to live the Christ-life to its fullest. 

Keep on keeping on.  Until He says differently there is more perennial world to come!  Ready?  I mean, really ready?

Blessings, Charlie

Just Watching – June 2019

The June 2018 R and C Resources Just Watching word-of-the-month was perennial.   Perennial is an adjective that normally describes flowers or plants or vegetables that endure and that recur annually – like daffodils, day lilies, asparagus and hosta.  So, what does that have to do with me?  Read on, please.

I wrote:  “Recently an aging-expert used perennial in reference to me and other men and women in my age bracket”.  She says that we not only endure but that we keep renewing – coming back – year after year.  We don’t bloom and die.  We bloom, die and bloom again year after year after year.   She’s not talking about dying on earth before we live again in heaven.  She’s talking about how many of us take a licking and keep on ticking right here!  We endure and year after year, like perennial plants and flowers, we bloom again.  The May, 2018 AARP Bulletin cited Dr. Laura Carsten, “…a top aging expert who is on staff at Stanford University”, as the source for that insight. 

Imagine that!  Me – and others out there my age and beyond – age on in this world long past what is supposed to be our prime and do so as healthy and enduring perennials.  Less than a hundred and fifty years ago, sez Dr. Carsten, “aging” and companion words like geriatrics and gerontology weren’t even part of a university’s vocabulary let alone having a full time faculty member who specialize in aging.   Dr. Carsten wrote, “When I was in graduate school 30 years ago, old age was considered to be pathological…”  (That means something that is involved in, caused by, or of the nature of a physical or mental disease.)   She continues, “…and I went along with that.  But when I began studying elders I found that they were really doing well emotionally, even when they weren’t doing so well physically.  They were generous, thoughtful and emotionally complex.  And I thought ‘If those qualities are growing as our population is aging, then we’d be idiots not to see aging as a resource for improving society’.”   What a fortuitous flip-flop!

It’s when she came to that conclusion she shifted gears and began describing people 70 and beyond as “perennials” and in the process became a recognized specialist in one of life’s basic and on-going activities: aging.  Put another way, Seniors and Super-Seniors keep growing in usefulness for as long as they live.  The big 2019 surprise is that Super-Seniors (men and women over 85 years of age) have become a huge demographic segment, 490,000 strong, with no end of growth in sight.  As significant as is their numbers is the significant and often unrecognized servant roles they fulfill in their families and in their communities. 

Audie and I know what that means from observation and personal experience as we recently zipped past our 90th birthdays, Audie first and me a few months behind.   Audie’s 90th birthday followed the pattern of her mother’s side of her family.  She has lots of over-90 distaff ancestors. 

But when I match up my 90th birthdate to the birthdates of all the ancestral males in my lineage I’m all alone.  Checking my Mueller roots I have become the oldest Mueller male in direct descent going back to the 1650s and, since there are no older records, maybe a thousand years beyond.   I am doing my perennial, post-90, male thing while trying to feel my way along on an earthly serving path upon which none of my ancestors have trod.   I’m heading into a perennial tomorrow of continuing growth and expanding service but with no male ancestors to guide me.  And with not a whole lot of other help elsewhere, either.  Look out for the imminent Super-Seniors! 

When I embarked as a pastor in the early 1950s “old age” meant working toward being maybe “three score years and ten”.   In those days that’s when old men and women were thought of as rocking away on some Old Folks Home’s front porch, wound down and worn out waiting for Gabriel’s sweet chariot to swing low for them.  How did I fail to notice that Scripture has more to say about living life’s last days to their fullest as Seniors and Super-Seniors than at any of the earlier age cohorts?

But here we Seniors and Super-Seniors are with little or no sense of imminent departure.  One of our doctors (please note the plural) recently told my wife and me that we don’t look or act like people who are “old”.  Given our present state of intellectual, physical, social and spiritual vigor (compared to what I was expecting to feel like at 90) I don’t think of myself as “old” either.  We’ve both got things to do!

Don’t get me wrong – we ain’t what we used to be.  We pop lots of pills and the speed with which we do almost everything is much slower than it was once.  But we look forward to our life’s agenda every morning and face an abundance of fresh and demanding issues each day. God has fascinating new challenges for us every day.  Few are like those we dealt with in past life stages.  We have changed.  Our world has changed.  Our choices have changed.  Our Super-Senior, post-90 world understands Wayne Dyer’s significant comment that “When you change the way you look at a thing the thing you look at changes”.  Maybe that’s what keeps things so exciting!

That means that we perennials, with our descendants, daily face heretofore unknown issues.  We can’t act as if we are not in the jet age, the electronic age, and the age of scientific discovery in which change is a constant.  We have to think ahead to the very different world not only of our children, but our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren – and plan for it.   Today’s world isn’t what Audie and I foresaw when we married in 1953.  But then we didn’t expect to be 90, either.

My 1942 Confirmation sang a hymn the first line of which was, “Lord, take my hand and lead me long life’s way.”   Over the 77 years since the eight of us sang that song He has done just that for me.  With Him as Leader, even when I have been such a poor follower, I’ve had a great life.  And it’s not over yet.  There’s more beyond.

Believing that I wonder what He yet has in mind for me as I follow His lead in my Super-Senior perennial world?  Is there even more to come before Audie and I (and you) go home?

That remains to be seen.  Yes, indeedy!

Charlie

Just Watching – May 2019

For how many years has R and C Resources been predicting a tsunami of Seniors and of Super-Seniors?   A billion or more?  Remember the difference?  Seniors are men and women 65 years old and aging by the day.  Super-Seniors have slipped past an 85th birthday and are still going.   Those forecasting days are now over.   Both Seniors galore and now huge clumps of Super-Seniors are here, on the scene.  The latter are 490,000 strong in the USA – and they keep on coming and coming and coming. 

I know that is true because TV programs, newspapers and magazines are doing a chicken-little-thing about it.  Of late they increasingly announce not only the raw data about the population explosion of older people but are pouring out follow-up stories about what the data will mean for the future of Social Security, medicine and a redistribution of the tax load.

Are other generational segments part of this pattern of expansion?  The good news/bad news is that they will only expand as they become Super-Seniors but they are even now a bulky presence – not growing but their numbers are not declining as fast as they once did.

While this numerical ballooning is going on the geographical limits of the USA are a constant: it remains the same.  There’s no give in our border to border or coast to coast boundaries.  We may sing as of old about wanting “land lots of land under starry skies above” but the fact is that we are fenced in and the 2019 question facing us now is just how many people can we cram into our “national phone booth” before we feel we have run out of room – which in a way is what building a fence on our southern border is all about.  That question takes on new meaning and the issue is intensified when we recognize that our population is not only growing, we are living longer as well as living longer longer.   Wow!

Do you realize that older US citizens will not only compete with immigrants from the outside but will increasingly vie with their  grandchildren and great grandchildren for leg room, tax dollars and waning resources?  Or to put it another way will we individually live so long that we will have used up our personal assets and will have little to pass on to our heirs – or pay our end of life bills? 

Impossible?  Be alert.  When you are checking out facilities that you may want to care for you in your later years they are checking you out as well.  They want to know whether your assets and projected income match your life expectancy.  That process is complicated by current calculations of how long our nation’s Social Security and Medicare reserve will last.  There are even quiet conversations about whether to intentionally limit the life of Seniors and Super-Seniors.  You better be wary when your great grandchildren offer to take you casket shopping. (Little joke…)

Impossible?  In the distant past some Eskimos reportedly parked aging and infirm grandpas on passing icebergs and watched as both float away.   Or migrating Indian tribes are said to have put immobile seniors under a tree with a jug of water and then moved on without them.  Did it happen?  What do you think?

The Chicago Tribune (4/26/19) printed a reader’s response to one of their earlier articles entitled, “Elderly Are Not Throwaways”.  The reader asked why stories about the contributions of select outstanding younger people featured, “40 Under 40” but there were never articles about outstanding Seniors and Super-Seniors who are still adding much to our world bannered, “80 over 80”.   I hope you know there are Seniors and Super-Seniors aplenty who every day make life at many levels a wondrous thing.  I watch them do their magic week after week at Trinity Lutheran Church in Roselle and at Windsor Manor in Carol Stream, Illinois.  The sad thing about their grand ministry is twofold:  Many of the 40-under-40 don’t realize the value and importance of what the 80-over-80 are offering and many of the 80-over-80 don’t understand how valuable and important the way they “live and move and have their being” really is. 

One of the ways that I put the post-90 years into proper context is by re-reading what an inspired “someone” penned long ago about how life changes surface with age.  It looks to me as if he was an “over-80” type of guy who spelled out in Ecclesiastes 12 (especially verses 1-7) what later life can be like.  Basically things about aging haven’t changed much over the centuries.  I discovered as much on Good Friday last when as I got out of bed.  My right leg hurt like heaven and it wouldn’t support me.  After limping around throughout Easter, during which time I came to find out you had to be at death’s door in order to see a doctor, I met with an orthopedist on Monday and had an X-ray.  Diagnosis?  90 years of walking-running-jumping-twisting had worn out the cartilage in my knee and it was down to a painful bone-on-bone reality.  In the days of Ecclesiastes there wasn’t much to be done about something like that given life expectancy then.  But in 2019 it called for me to produce my health insurance and Medicare cards, completing about a dozen pages of forms followed by four successive shots of something into my knee, a measurement for a knee brace and the medical opinion that the whole knee might have to be surgically replaced in time.  All of which is to say medical care 2,000 years after Christ was much different from that which was available1,000 years before His birth. 

That little isolated narrative was true not only about a worn out knee joint.  I also could tell you tales about dealing with cataracts, with cancers of all kinds, with encroaching macular degeneration and aches and pains yet to be identified.   All of which would have been avoided if I had died at a more reasonable age, like 45 or 50 – as did most people in the past.  But Mordecai’s reminder to Esther that she had been put into the world “for such a time as this” fits my world, too.  Only I’m hearing them at 90, creaky parts and all.  I’m not someday going to become a Super-Senior.  I am one.  

You?  Where are you in God’s chronicled order of things?  And given that all of us may have some, many or all of the much used and often abused parts Ecclesiastes enumerates, what are we to do?  We aren’t dead.  Super-Seniors have to cope with all kinds of 21st century challenges like shaky memory, limited hearing-vision-taste-touch, weak grip and so forth and so forth.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not complaining.  By now I should be used to dealing with change.  I came into this world unable to speak, to count or throw a ball.   But I somehow learned to do all that and am now coming to understand that what I can “do” will come and go with age.  That’s some of what Mordecai and Ecclesiastes reminds me.  Doing comes and goes.  What is of greater importance to Super-Seniors and any heading in that direction and is more important than what I can do and not do is who I am – beginning with being one who is redeemed of the Lord and as such a child of God.

All that notwithstanding what can I do even now in my increasingly limited condition?  Given who I am, where and with whom I now live Walter Foss’s life goal is tailored to my life and within my reach: “Let me live in my house by the side of the road and be a friend of man.”  My daily challenge as a redeemed child of God is to be what He called me to be – where I am.  But I never imagined I’d still be at it at 90.

Yet here Audie and I are still reaching out to others. 

Charlie

Just Watching – April 2019

IT’S A REAL HAPPENING!     For years R and C Resources has been forecasting an imminent tsunami of Super-Seniors.  Not just Seniors (those 65 and older) but Super-Seniors (those 85 and older).  Surprise.  Seniors, plus 490,000 Super-Seniors, are here – with more pouring our way just down the road.  Did you notice?

WINDSOR PARK    Audie and I now live in Windsor Park, a residence primarily for Senior/Super-Senior men and women (more women than men) many/most of whom are over 80 years of age. Our Windsor Park world is full of fascinating folk who are only living longer but are living longer longer.  That fact when extended across the US populace means that we will need a constant increase in yesterday’s promised Medicare dollars.  Ditto yesterday’s pension commitments.  Great-grandparents and great-grandchildren have an eye on the same future tax dollar.  That looks like a problem.  Solution?  First voluntary and the involuntary euthanasia is being hinted at even now by the same immoral “majority” who approve late-term abortion today.  Am I a fear monger?  Check out Earl’s comments in a contemporary Pickles cartoon to which I will later refer.

Just so you don’t think I’m the only guy concerned with Senior/Super-Senior changes have you noticed the number of books and articles about life after 65 that are hitting the market today?  We are long past the day when it was assumed that anyone over 60 would be parked in an Altenheim, or some such similarly named home for the aged, where they would be satisfied to daily rock into eternity on the home’s front porch.  That picture doesn’t sell today.   2019 has an abundance of age sensitive visionary people and organizations who don’t like rocking chairs.  They like to rock boats.   A few examples?

KALAMAZOO    Zion Lutheran Church’s (Kalamazoo, Michigan) monthly publication. “Harbinger” is much, much more than the average congregational newsletter.  It’s more like a pan-generational literary magazine (16 pages, plus) filled with well written news and notes, stimulating book reviews, comments about social, community and ecclesiastical shifts, original “think pieces”, informative parish reports and much else.  The March 2019 issue announced Zion’s latest effort to be known as “Aging with His Grace Ministry”.  That ministry will reach in/out to the age segment that is living longer and living longer longer.   Zion sees a Senior/Super-Senior population segment everywhere they look and are anxious to seek and save them.   Want to know more about what a Gold Star congregation’s pan-generational efforts?   E-mail Pastor Tim Seeber at Zion@zionkazoo.org and ask for a copy of their parish monthly.  Read it and then go and do likewise.   All it will take is understanding, commitment and hard work.

MORE FROM THE FRONT LINES     Pastor Dick Koehneke (Ft. Wayne pastor and regular R and C Resources contributor) flagged two other noteworthy age related items.  One is the book “Women Rowing North” written by clinical psychologist Mary Pipher.  “North” in the title refers to “getting older”.  “Rowing” implies hard work that effective aging requires.  The Wall Street Journal’s review of Pipher’s book offered three “rowing north” survival insights.  The rowers need to recognize : 1) gratitude as a positive response after working through life’s age-related pain and suffering; 2) managing expectations means learning how to get what you want from life by knowing what to want; 3) developing a sense of humor is crucial as you first become a   Senior and then keep moving on into Super-Seniordom.  Buy and read her book.  Oh yes, she says she writes primarily for and about the women because they are her professional specialization.   I feel her female shoes will fit my male foot fine.    What do you think?

Richard offered more.  He was the first to alert me to the “Reformation Retirement Manifesto” which was issued by the Colson Center for Christian World View.  As best I can tell being promoted by John Strongstreet who fronts an age related organization and a radio program.   I’m sure the Manifesto will be passed on by others.  In point of fact while it is important it’s nothing new.   Rather it’s a kind of generalized distillation of what past Senior visionaries have encouraged on those who are getting older and  little uncertain about what to do as that is happening.   Something to think about.

MARY SIMON Well known author Mary Simon wrote about comments I had made about a recent publication, “Aging Thoughtfully”. She added, “…I appreciate the opportunity for us to look down the road through your eyes.”   In return I appreciate all that Mary is doing or all of us on such a broad age related front.   She understands that prepared for it or not tomorrow is just down the road for each of us.   Whether that will be a happy day will depend on whether and how we prepare for it.    Hand in hand with Him it will be a wower.  So…..

PICKLES: EARL AND OPAL    I look forward each morning to a daily newspaper cartoon serving of Earl and Opal, two Super-Seniors.  The strip is called “Pickles”.

One strip last week featured Earl and an older friend.  Earl said, “I heard a guy on his cell phone the other day say that it is the duty of old people to die and get out of the way”.  His friend answered, “That’s pretty cold hearted.” Earl’s response, “My new motto is, ‘Old, in the way, and here to stay’.” 

Or, in one cartoon Earl’s wife Opal shouts from somewhere in the house: “Earl!”.   Earl answers: “What?”.  That same exchange is repeated for two more panels before Earl in the last one says to his grandson: “Some days we play this game for hours.”  Makes me wonder whether the strip could just as easily be named, “Rich and Charlie”, or…..

I love the humorous lift that I get every morning from Opal and Earl.   My approach makes me think I’m doing OK by one of Mary Pipher’s “Women Rowing North” survival criteria: maintaining a sense of humor.

90 YEARS OLD AND STILL GOING    I appreciate Dr. Simon’s comments about “looking down the road through your eyes”.  I’m delighted to help anyone who is interested in doing that.  But my real goal in life is to help Seniors and Super-Seniors look down their own road through their own eyes.  If the reaction to what I write is, “That’s interesting and I need to remember his experience,” I have failed in what I set out to do.  But if the reaction is, “So that’s what is going on in my life.  I need to be on top of it myself”, then every hour I work at Just Watching is worth it.  It’s another application of the adage: “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and feed him for his life.”  Here’s to all who want to teach others to fish as Jesus dared to do with already Master Fisherman Peter in John 21:9.

In the meanwhile, whether viewed as a chronological date or personal event Easter is near at hand for all, to Super-Seniors more than most.  May it be a blessed day for all.  “Be not afraid.  He is not here.  He has risen.”

Amen to that.

Charlie

Just Watching – March 2019

How about putting our thinking cap on as we take a whack at a quote from CS Lewis that was passed on to me by an old friend Michael Bryan.  Lewis said: “You don’t have a soul.  You are a soul.  You have a body.”

That pretty well captures what I rediscover about myself as I peer at that old-man-me in the mirror each morning.  Am I that guy?  Or am I the very different person that I feel is simultaneously right there inside me?

What stirred all that to the surface is not only my normally restless mind coupled to the Lewis quote but also  quite another book with which I’m wrestling.  It was recently referred to me by Dr. George Heider.  Like many other Seniors and Super Seniors I think he senses that there is large scale change going on in our world as the number of people over 85 years of age zips past the 490,000 mark, still growing as it does!  The book, titled “Aging Thoughtfully” is a 2017 Oxford University Press publication that features essays crafted by Chicago U profs Martha Nussbaum and Saul Levermore on eight of the topics which Senior and Super-Senior face.  It’s meant to make you think and surfaces every bit as many questions as it does answers.  

“Aging Thoughtfully” has been a slow read for me.  That’s not just because of the intellectual capabilities of the authors but because page after page, almost line by line, the two of them make a thoughtful reader face a favorite question of Martin Luther: “What does this mean?”.  That for sure and more.  The book makes me search my soul (ala Lewis), “What does this mean to me?”  The book’s target is more than the head.  It aims for the teaser run-on attached to the book’s title says it contains “…conversations about retirement, romance, wrinkles and regret.”  Do those sound like critical post-65 concerns to you?  It does to me.  Standing here at 90 I have learned that the “aging” component of the books title is a given.  Like it or not I keep aging day by day.  But the “thoughtfully” component of the title is up to the each of us.  

So let me report on how Audie and I are doing in our new abode where Carol Stream, Illinois’ Windsor Park we are aging for sure – thoughtfully more so some days than others.  We have lived here for nearing six months all the while learning new things about senior community living and about ourselves with every passing day. 

Much (most?) of this community’s population can be doctrinally described as Evangelical and/or Reformed and at first blush see things quite differently from folks in Lutheran world in which we came of age.  But socially they are no different from the great people among whom we were raised.  Caring.  Loving.  Sharing.  Open.  Welcoming. 

To begin the vast majority of those who live here with us are either Seniors (those 60-85 years of age) or Super-Senior population segment (those 85 years of age and older).  There are not many Millennials or Boomers living in Windsor Park most of who manage the place, prepare and  serve meals or help with the maintenance needs that people like us can no longer do.  I think that of total population of maybe 600 a significant number are receiving some kind of specialized care.  As much as it can be said the rest care for themselves – with lots of support.

In general, Windsor Park has widows and widowers aplenty. Many are separated by circumstance from family and friends.  They enjoy social contacts and Windsor Manor provides contacts aplenty – as I am sure other facilities do as well.  Whether one is a resident here or not there millions of Seniors and Super-Seniors who have worked their way through all of life’s stages without knowing the Good News God offer them.  It is still true, as Jesus put it, “The fields are white unto harvest.”  Don’t let white hair, wrinkles and walkers fool you into thinking that those who are aging have no need “to hear the Story”.  Remember the CS Lewis quote?  “You don’t have a soul …you are a soul.”  Audie and I are at peace with where we now live because we see Windsor Park as a ministry and we start each day looking around for what God wants us to do – today.  

We know a lot about those whom we have been sent to serve because we are learning a lot about ourselves.   Most of them (us, too) don’t see as well as we once did.  I forgot but now remember how as a kid I would regularly thread a half dozen or so needles for Grandma Steinkamp who loved to sew but couldn’t see or hit the eye of the needle.  And I’m amazed by how many church publications use small type in material they send to us old guys.  They might just as well throw in the trash.  We, of necessity, do. 

Most of us don’t hear well, either.  Look at us when you speak – and don’t lower your voice at the end of sentences.  Be committed to successfully communicate with Seniors and Super Seniors.  “Can’t hear” looks a lot like “Don’t care.”

Everyone has memory lapses, Super-Seniors more so.  ‘Nuf said.  And as we age just walking can become a greater and greater challenge.   Steps?  Ugh!  Even without them walking can be a slow-go.    

Thinking back I recognize that each and every previous generational segment of my past had limitations which I learned to accommodate.  As I “age thoughtfully” I look out for new challenges seeing them as reminders of the lifelong constancy of change. 

I’m the oldest living Mueller male in direct descent going back to the mid-1600s.  That’s nothing to brag about.  To me it means I have a responsibility to my descendants as well as to my peers to pass on what I am learning about thoughtfully aging.  Aging?  For sure.  Thoughtfully?  That remains to be seen.  But in any case, passing experience and wisdom on is what at 90 I am called to do.  I hope doing so will benefit them.  I know it benefits me.

There is still much more I have to learn and will want to share that will come my way as I am “Aging Thoughtfully”.  I mean to pursue whatever that is and I promise to pass it on.

Meanwhile Lent 2019 is about here, my 90th.  Lent means “spring time”.  What an odd name for such a somber season!  No matter the root meaning imbedded in season of Lent is the conviction that Easter and the resurrection it offers is also just around the corner.  “Easter people” of the kind Rich Bimler encourages us to be have no time for denying aging.  Instead we marvel that God has offered Seniors and Super-Seniors a chance to age thoughtfully as the newer Day which the Father has prepared for His own draws nigh.  We wait expectantly.  How about that?

Charlie

Just Watching – February 2019

 For the last few years I’ve kept my eyes peeled for any item touching men and women who are over 85 years of age, the ones I call Super-Seniors.  They are the successor segment to the 65-85 year olds that throughout most of my life were called Seniors and often treated as if they were the last stop before heaven.  But given there are a lot more Super Seniors today than in the past and that their numbers are mounting.  Sadly the ignorance about them, even the denial of their existence by some seems to be mounting, too.  That probably should come as no surprise.  Not many today and fewer in the recent past live as if they will be old enough to example George Burn’s 95th birthday quip, “If I’d known I’d live this long I’d have taken better care of myself.”  That comment usually gets a wry guffaw of recognition in response.

But surprise, surprise.  Here I am within a few weeks of my 90th natal day.  Together with 490,000 Super-Senior men and women (with more coming stage center every day) I greet a new dawn.  In the near future public parking lots will be divided between “Handicap Parking” and “Really Handicapped Parking”.  It’ll be parking at the curb out on the street for everyone else.  I suppose that when that happens those 10% Senior discounts at restaurants and drug stores will be limited to Super-Seniors Only – first come, first served. 

Far-fetched?  Probably not.  Today, I’m told, in tiny Ecuador, long lines of people waiting to buy basic family goods form each day. Another but much shorter parallel line is also formed and monitored by the police.  It is limited to those who are infirmed or disabled, to pregnant women, to mothers with small children and to a group called the Third Age.  That Third Age is composed of people over 65 years of age who can prove it.  Anyone who tries to work their way into that line without proof of age are unceremoniously removed. 

Will the USA ever adopt a Third Age classification?  Who knows, but it has to be obvious that a kind of Third Age category is already upon us.  Look at the “older” age related housing, medical care or pension tsunami that is building in our society.  How many are projected to ultimately end up bankrupt or in default?  Think Tanks of all kind are tussling today with how the projected 20 billion people of our 2050 world will be supported.  Where will they live?  Will they have food and clean water?  What will the energy needs be in 31years? 

As you consider all that remember it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that the world population reached one billion. It wasn’t until the 1930s that it doubled to two billion.  Now a population of twenty billion within 30 years?  Hey, wait a minute!   Large chunks of our R and C Resources readership may still be alive then!   As L’il Abner (remember him?) would have said, “Who’d a’ thunk it?”

Yes, indeed, “Who’d a’ thunk it?”  And that’s the question Super Seniors (plus parents, pastors, Think Tankers and concerned leaders of all kinds) need to wrestle with today.

As I was preparing this issue of Just Watching and thinking about sharing this kind of supersonic change for Super-Seniors there came to my mind a mythological Greek figure from the past: Cassandra, the daughter of Priam, king of Troy.  As one story about her goes she was object of the god Apollo’s affection.  He offered her the gift of prophecy if she would become his.  She said yes to the receiving the gift of prophesy (and received it) but then no to Apollo’s desires (and didn’t keep her word).  How did Apollo react?  He put a curse on her that while she would receive the gift of prophecy no one would believe her.  Possible?  Hardly.

There are many “prophets”, past and present, who deal with Cassandra’s double whammy.  They possess a needed truth but those with whom they most want to share it spurn their offering.   Possible?  How about probable! 

Many a Cassandra-like caring parent (prophet) yearns to guide an obstinate child who will not listen or obey.   Or, many a Cassandra-like faithful pastor (prophet) speaks the truth in love to an intractable parishioner or an unyielding parish.  Or, how about the Cassandra-like political visionary (prophet) who agonize over constituents who spurn 21st societal improvements.

All this is nothing new.  There is a well-known collective paraphrase of many Old and New Testament texts that essentially say, “There’s none so blind as he who will not see – or deaf as he who will not hear.”  Even so, the ministry of many past or present “prophets” (like Jeremiah, John the Baptist – your own Mom or Dad) is to painfully speak the truth no matter what.

So how’s it going with those in the 21st century who faithfully keep testifying to undeniable life realities?   My answer is, “Not so good”.  Cassandra’s curse is still very much alive.

Notwithstanding, R and C Resources will continue its focus on the needs of individuals, home life and local parishes. For personal reasons, since I am one, I’ve been especially concerned with the Super-Seniors among whom I find myself.  My goal is that of tending to a number of practical issues.

  1. I will keep pushing whomever I can toward a better ministry to Super-Seniors.
  2. I will continue exploring those post-85 years, a Bonus Land that God has given to a rising number of us! 
  3. I will recognize that change is a constant and that more of it is on the way.  It’s not over until it’s over.  Change isn’t slowing down even a little bit.   
  4. I need to remember that centuries before Christ was born the Romans taught each other: “Tempore mutantur, et nos mutamur in illes” (which means, “The times are changing and we are changing in them”).  Much earlier Greeks agreed.  Their cryptic saying was, “Panta rhei” (which means, “Everything flows”).  That quote from Ovid of old was later adopted and adapted by the Lutheran Reformers.   
  5. As a 21st century Super-Senior I am committed to blessing my heirs with Johnny Mercer’s 1944 instruction for living life in God’s Bonus Land.  He urged a three step approach of, “accentuating the positive, eliminating the negative while latching on to the affirmative”.  Super-Seniors might adopt that song as guidance for life.   What do you think?

In any case, today is the day God has given us.  As I hold it in my hand a well-known quote attributed to many surfaces: “Yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is a mystery.  Today is a gift – which is why we call it the Present.”   Why God has chosen to gift me as long as He has – and as long as He yet will – I know not.  But that fact that He urges me to unwrap it hour by hour and as best I am able, use it to His glory and for the benefit of all with whom He surrounds me.   In God’s economy of things each day is a mulligan.  Maybe next time I’ll be able to keep my head down and follow through.

Join me at the tee?

Charlie